Comments on Arthur B's What's Your Pleasure, Sir?

Revisiting the early Hellraiser movies.

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Ronan Wills at 22:11 on 2015-12-07
I was interested to read about the "infinite pleasure as well as infinite suffering" angle since (having not actually watched any of these movies) I only see them described as "BDSM demons kidnap people into an evil torture dimension and torture them forever". Do the movies actually get across that both aspects exist in the Cenobite's world at once?

Arthur B at 22:55 on 2015-12-07
Not overtly. The thing about the Cenobite realm is kind of a pig-in-a-poke; it's advertised as offering infinite pleasure as well as infinite suffering, but when you get there the emphasis is decidedly on the suffering, particularly since for most people tossing infinite suffering in with infinite pleasure kind of ruins the pleasure.

That said, at least in the first two films those who come back have clearly got something out of the experience. Both Frank and Julia re-emerge as supernatural entities in their own right - not in terms of having absolutely amazing powers as such, but the fact that they can even live without their skin or derive a sick sustenance from dead people suggests that they have capabilities extending mildly beyond the human. (Julia even more so, which makes sense when you consider she's actively on the side of Leviathan in Hellbound.) And the way they carry themselves suggests that they've come away with a hideous knowledge and a terrible power - this is most evident with Julia because we get to know her pre-Hell personality much better during the first movie, so when she escapes in the second one the difference a stay in Hell has made is easier to see. And even the third film had Terri finally being able to dream as a result of signing on with the Cenobites.

But basically, if you're the sort of person for whom infinite suffering doesn't outweigh infinite pleasure, you become either a full-blown Cenobite or some other form of servitor of Leviathan like Julia, because kind of by definition the Cenobites are people who are willing to experience both to the extent to which they don't distinguish between them.
Ichneumon at 04:36 on 2015-12-17
The thing that you always have to keep in mind with Barker is that part of the point is that transcendence is not necessarily fun and rarely pretty even when it is beautiful. The mad giant in "In the Hills, the Cities" is probably the quintessential example of this, but it's a recurring motif. In a way, I kind of see it as an extension of the awe component within Lovecraft's vision of cosmicism, but as Arthur notes, it's about the human becoming the cosmic and incomprehensible through extremes of the human experience.
Arthur B at 13:07 on 2016-01-15
Huh, interesting. Catching up on my brother's Tumblr he seems to have turned up a curious fact - namely, that the original plan for Hellraiser III was to have Julia be the big bad, a role she kind of plays in Hellbound as well, which would have been an interesting direction for it. Normal-Julia-in-Greek-dress couldn't really compete with the Cenobites in the visuals department, but skinless-Julia prowling around Channard's home in a bloodstained David Byrne suit looked amazing, and bringing back a recurring character with some actual depth would have been better than spreading Pinhead out too thin.

There's a nice little article by Peter Atkins, who wrote Hellbound and did the early script treatments for Hell On Earth (and was supposed to direct it), explaining what Julia was supposed to do in the third film and claiming that the plan was always for her to be the main villain, and the arc this unfilmed version of the third film would have provided absolutely makes sense. In the first film, she's the one who Frank cajoles into procuring victims for him, and in doing so finds that she likes murder way more than she should; in the second film, she ends up in a state much like Frank was, only she gets a better deal out of it than Frank ever did, she is responsible for completing Channard's corruption, and she's far nastier about her feeding habits than Frank ever was; in the planned third film, she would have returned to Earth not as a lone wolf but as the spearhead of an invasion. (Plus how cool would it have been to have a horror series with a female protagonist and a female antagonist over the course of the trilogy?)

Unfortunately, the actress who played Julia refused to come back, so that was that. The essay doesn't explain exactly why they didn't just use the skinless version of her - after all, skinless-Julia was apparently played by someone else in Hellbound, and they could have just apply effects to her voice to suggest that she has attained a new level of supernatural power and to cover for the fact that it's a different person doing the dubbing. Oh well.
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